Law School to Launch Specialization in Development

Courtesy of Daniel Mayer
Courtesy of Daniel Mayer

Emory University School of Law is launching a Master of Laws (LLM) specialization in law and development starting this spring, according to a July 5 School of Law press release.

“[With the new] LLM specialization in law and development, students will have the opportunity to study the intersections of economic development and corruption, the courts and human rights,” said Robert Ahdieh, vice dean and K.H. Gyr Professor of Private International Law.

The program, launched in collaboration with the Law and Development Institute (LDI), will “address the increasing global demand for lawyers who understand development issues, particularly economic development,” according to the press release. LDI is a non-profit academic organization that aims to promote law and development studies.

The LLM program was created because, “many students have interests in law and development but have not been able to find suitable programs in which to pursue their learning objectives,” said Steve Lee, director of LDI, distinguished scholar in residence and adjunct professor at the School of Law.

Not many graduate law programs offer a specialization in development, which makes the new LLM course of study a unique opportunity for law students and professionals, according to Lee.

The correlation between law and development has to do with how legal frameworks and institutions (LFIs) affect economic development, Lee said.

For example, laws that provide effective remedies for contract breach will help promote business transactions by reducing uncertainties and costs associated with business transactions, Lee said.

Legal frameworks that secure private property rights incentivize individuals and companies to run business more efficiently to gain additional profits.

Institutions, such as courts, that provide an effective dispute resolution process also help businesses by lowering the cost of resolving disputes in the course of business.

All of these aspects will be important for economic development, according to Lee.

Lee added that in the LLM program, students will learn how LFIs affect economic development in several key areas relevant to economic development, such as property rights, political governance, legal framework for business transactions and taxation.

Students will also have an opportunity to study development issues from social and political perspectives as well as international trade from development perspectives.

Examples of courses students will take in this program include “Law and Economic Development,” “Law and Development: From Social and Political Perspectives,” “International Trade Law and Policy” and “Political Economy of Development Practice.”

“Emory sees great importance in contributing to development and the Rule of Law,” Lee said, adding that the teaching programs will be funded by the Law School.

“It will also be possible for Emory to seek additional funding support from development agencies and governmental institutes,” he said.

Although there is an existing program in development at the University’s Laney Graduate School, it isn’t framed within a legal context.

In terms of career paths after graduation, Atieno Samandari, adjunct professor and postdoctoral fellow at the Law School mentioned that students graduating with the LLM specialization may pursue a variety of careers, including working for state development agencies, international and national NGOs, public interest organizations and development consulting firms, among others.

“Law School students in the LLM specialization can take courses offered in the Laney Graduate School, to study development in a multi-disciplinary context, with a legal foundation of knowledge as well,” Samandari said.

Samandari said the LLM program is not entirely new but rather is based on existing programs and builds a stronger link between law and development. Such existing programs are International Business Law and Intellectual Property and Innovation Law.

In a multi-disciplinary learning framework, students in the program will become lawyers who have a broader vision, according to Ahdieh.

“With a specialization in development, students will become lawyers who integrate the interdisciplinary views of economists, ecologists and health experts,” Ahdieh said.

Both Ahdieh and Lee noted the variety of experiences and range of expertise that faculty teaching courses related to the program will bring to bear, including in intellectual property, environmental protection and international trade.

In addition to a qualified and diverse faculty, students will also have access to resources outside of the classroom. Lee said that the program is looking into opportunities to collaborate with government agencies, such as the U.S. State Department and other development organizations like the United Nations.

“With time, thus, the hope is for students to be able to pursue various field work opportunities in law and development,” Lee added.

The program also offers students to learn in practical environments.

According to Ahdieh, various student practice societies, namely doing fieldworks, can serve as a great platform for students to learn from their peers, as well as to participate in guest speaker programs.

The new program also aims to build bridges with the Global Health Institute, according to Samandari who noted the Carter Center’s human rights programs and its connections to the Law School.

“There can be further cooperation between the Carter Center and the Law School in law and development, designing programs together,” Samandari said.

Since the LLM specialization is new and enrollment won’t begin until this spring, no students are officially a part of the program yet. However, some students have already expressed an interest.

Emory Law School student Ingrid M. Olivera learned about to the program from Lee.

 “I am interested in international law and how it influences a country making decisions in terms of trade,” Olivera said. “I believe through the LLM specialization, I can learn about development, which will be helpful for me to take back to my home country and put into practice.”

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